Tag: House Sparrow
I collected Luke and Louise from Alnwick, for the first of their three trips with us this week, and we headed north to Lindisfarne…
Crossing the causeway, with hardly any water in sight, it was hard to believe that this has been the scene of so many attempts by the unwary and the foolish to drive through seawater that brings their journeys to an abrupt end and the ignominy of having to be rescued by the RNLI and RAF. On the island, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing from deep cover as foraging Lapwings were joined by a Fieldfare that was chancing it’s arm with repeated threat displays. Meadow Pipits were sitting on fence posts and dry stone walls as the air all around seemed to be filled with singing Skylarks. Eight Roe Deer were feeding in a grassy field and a buck near the village took umbrage at beeing watched and took off at pace, clearing fence after fence and wall after wall as he headed towards the dunes on the north of the island. House Sparrows were chirping from what seemed like every bush on the island and Grey Herons blended in to the reeds around the Lough to such an extent that Louise’s sharp eyes picked one out and it took a while, and the heron suddenly moving it’s head, before myself and Luke could see it.
As a cold north easterly breeze gathered pace, the eerie calls of Grey Seals and the shrill cries of Curlew carried across the mudflats. Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, surely getting ready to depart for northern climes, arrived with the rising tide and Little Egrets, Wigeon, Teal, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Herring, Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls were joined along the edge of the swelling water by three Whimbrel.
To enjoy my unedited views about Holy Island causeway strandings, why not join one of our Lindisfarne Safaris? We run them throughout the year, although October (for migrants), November-February (wintering waders and wildfowl) and June-July (flora and insects) are the slightly better months to visit.
Starting at Newbiggin we set out south down the coast and soon found ourselves standing on a track with nine Blackbirds ahead of us, along with Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Linnets and House Sparrows. Little Grebes slept and dived as young Grey Herons stalked along the water’s edge and demonstrated just how inelegant they are in flight – and especially in landing 🙂 A lunchtime stop overlooking the North Sea produced rafts of Eider, Fulmars arcing effortlessly over the waves and a Harbour Porpoise feeding just offshore as Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone explored the shoreline. The afternoon was dominated by waders; Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Lapwing, Ruff, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin. Greenshank, Oystercatchers arriving for their high-tide roost stunning in beautiful light against a dark brooding sky and Common Snipe demonstrating their exceptional camouflage in amongst clumps of rush. Stonechats flicked their tails nervously from precarious perches on barbed wire and Goldfinches, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs swarmed in rank vegetation and nearby trees.
See you at the Bird Fair next year 🙂
After two long hard days offshore (8hr pelagic on Saturday – blog post coming soon! – and 14hr offshore on Sunday for a North East Cetacean Project transect survey) today brought some light relief from the rolling swell of the North Sea as I headed north to Seahouses to collect Phil and Ann (who had won a morning out with NEWT in a competition on Visit Northumberland) and Rachael and Alex, who by happy coincidence were all staying at St Cuthbert’s House.
In weather that was glorious, even by the high standards set during this year, we headed north towards Holy Island. In the north of Northumberland, with a falling tide, it was looking like a good waders and wildfowl morning. Mudflats were dotted with a mosaic of Mallard, Shelduck, Curlew, Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Pink-footed Geese and, as we drove along the coastal road towards Holy Island, we had the treat of watching a Sparrowhawk as it flew just ahead of us, only inches above the road. Ringed Plover and more Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank were feeding in the mud of Holy Island harbour, Pied Wagtails were, well, wagging their tails along the pebbly edge of the harbour, a flock of House Sparrows was engaged in stripping the seeds from grasses just above the tideline and House Martins and Swallows were sallying back and forth in search of insects in the warm autumn sunshine. Flocks of waders in flight are a spectacle to rival any other and as we watched, and listened to, a group of Grey Seals that were hauled out on the sandbanks between the island and the mainland, the amorphous twisting turning shapes in the air high overhead resolved into flocks of Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit.
The final part of the plan for the morning was a short session of seawatching. Sandwich and Common Terns were diving close to the shore, Gannets were a bit further out and the sea was dotted with the dark shapes of Eiders. Turnstones were perched on the top of rocky outcrops, a Harbour Porpoise proved elusive as it surfaced to breathe and an Arctic Skua raced south before everyone could get on to it. Obligingly it came back north, settled on the sea for a little while and then continued steadily north before breaking off into a aerobatic attack on a Sandwich Tern with another skua joining in as the tern twisted and turned in an attempt to evade the pirates of the sea as they attempted to rob it of it’s recent catch.
Lots of birds, lots of interesting wildlife behaviour to watch, and four clients who were all great fun to spend the morning with – if I ever suggest that I’m going to return to teaching, just point me in the direction of this blog post 🙂
After collecting Stephen for his second trip of the week, we drove north and met Susan near Holy Island, for her third trip in four days. Our Lindisfarne safaris are always an interesting guessing game, other than in the winter when we know that we’ll find vast flocks of waders and wildfowl – although even then there’s the unknown quantity of wintering raptors.
We started down the coast in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle; sheltering from the wind and rain, we watched Gannets soaring effortlessly, Common Scoter and Eider riding the swell like the most accomplished surfers in the world, Fulmars and Kittiwakes fighting into the stiffening breeze and a Red-throated Diver sliding beneath the waves and resurfacing out of sight.
What would appear at first glance to be a long line of boulders, exposed at low tide, resolved through binoculars, as expected, into several thousand Grey Seals. The ‘hook-nosed sea pigs’ (surely the most unflattering translation of the Latin name for any animal) were lazing on the exposed sand
On Holy Island itself the weather improved dramatically and we watched a flock of Ringed Plover and Dunlin in the harbour, with a surprise find in the form of a Little Stint. Meadow Pipits were song-flighting, Skylarks rose higher and higher, delivering their outstandingly complex songs, and Lapwings were tumbling over nearby fields as we worked our way slowly along a hedgerow getting close views of Dunnock and House Sparrow, and listening at close range to the repetitive notes of a Song Thrush. Surprise find of the day was a group of eight Roe Deer between Chare Ends and the Straight Lonnen. We’ve seen them on the island before, but never so many together at once.
After a day with two enthusiastic clients who had been excellent company on multiple trips during the week, it was time to drop Susan off and take Stephen back south. Sometimes, I think what really makes our trips work is the clients that we have 🙂
Last weekend was the Big Garden Birdwatch and we followed tradition by sitting in our kitchen with a mug of coffee, and a bacon and tomato sandwich, having topped up all of the feeders the evening before. An hour later, we’d racked up a list of 21 species; Blackbird 3, Jackdaw 2, Collared Dove 2, Robin 3, Chaffinch 20, Great Tit 3, Coal Tit 3, Magpie 1, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 8, Jay 1, Bullfinch 1, House Sparrow 1, Greenfinch 1, Woodpigeon 2, Redwing 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Song Thrush 1, Sparrowhawk 1, Brambling 2. Quite a successful hour, although most species weren’t present in the numbers we would have expected and, as usual, several species that had been visiting the garden in recent days (Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker) failed to appear during the 1 hour of the survey. Easy birding, and part of a huge national survey. If you didn’t do it this year, give it a go in 2014 🙂
Just as I arrived at Harkess Rocks to collect Andy and Helen for an afternoon of birdwatching around the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast, the first drops of sleety rain began splattering on the windscreen. We haven’t really had any sort of winter yet, apart from an hour of snow on December 16th, but yesterday afternoon did feel positively chilly. Undaunted by the easterly wind and icy showers we enjoyed the wader and wildfowl spectacle that is the Northumberland coast in the winter. Curlews singing as they flew by must have a joie de vivre that lets them vent that emotional haunting call wherever they may be. Other wading birds entertained as they probed, prodded and buried their bills face-deep in the mud; Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Oystercatchers were all making the most of the exposed mud at low tide. A big flock of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows and Reed Buntings held our attention for a good while and wildfowl were well represented with Shelduck, Eider, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Goosander and Pintail. As we watched a very obliging Dark-bellied Brent Goose, it was a sobering thought that our wintering birds are generally here because conditions in the areas where they breed are too harsh at this time of the year. Mammals were braving the cold too; 7 Roe Deer, a Brown Hare and 5 Common Seals made a not too shabby mammal list for the afternoon.
I often reflect on my decision to return to Northumberland from Arizona, and as we watched that lone Brent Goose, with the biting wind driving waves of showery rain, were my thoughts of the warmth and sunshine of Tucson? No, what I was thinking was that this is the weather I came home for…and the reason that good outdoor clothing is a necessity 😉
We had a leisurely hour of birdwatching yesterday morning. With all of the feeders stocked with top class bird food from Poltross, and a bacon and egg butty and a mug of coffee in hand, we settled down into our respective positions on either side of the kitchen. With commentary on the dismantling of Andy Murray in the background, binoculars were trained on the feeders, the ground, the shrubbery and the Ash tree. After a slow start, things began to gather pace and we finished with 76 birds of 20 species;
Collared Dove 4
Wood Pigeon 2
Carrion Crow 1
House Sparrow 1
Blue Tit 2
Great Tit 3
Coal Tit 7
Willow Tit 2
Long-tailed Tit 3
There were a few absentees as well, all seen regularly in the days leading up to the Big Garden Birdwatch;
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Maybe 25 species in 1hr is a target to aim for in our garden next year.